Ricky Warwick: When Patsy Cline Was Crazy / Hearts On Trees

Almighty/Black Star Riders man’s electric/acoustic two-album triumph.

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The battle-scarred streets of the Greater Belfast area where Ricky Warwick grew up have all the ingredients for a epic modern western played out as a roots rock’n’country opera.

And the combined effect of the electrified Patsy, filled with wounded, foot-on-monitor anthems (Celebrating Sinking), and the Hearts-lifting acoustic companion fits the bill magnificently.

Songs written with long-time pal Sam Robinson thrum with character detail as Johnny Ringo and Tank McCullough make their stand. The country music connection is played to unflinching and barbed, while resoundingly uplifting, effect.

The blood-and-soil rivalries and prejudices of Northern Ireland’s history have universal application. Bidding a rousing farewell to tub-thumping rivalries (and hypocrisies) on such as Schwaben Redoubt, Warwick’s history lesson strikes chords aplenty. If Steve Earle was younger, and from Belfast, these are the albums you’d hope he’d make. Courageous and compelling.

Gavin Martin

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.